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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 3rd, 2012, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 17

County supervisors consider appealing Chumash annexation

By JEREMY THOMAS

Santa Barbara County supervisors will hold a public meeting on July 10 to consider appealing the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decision to annex 6.9 acres of land owned by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

The bureau announced it accepted the land into federal trust in a June 13 letter to the tribe, removing the acreage from state and local jurisdictions. County supervisors have 30 days to appeal the decision, if they choose to do so.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said county staff would be examining how the annexation corresponds with policies in the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan. She said an open meeting, which will be held in Santa Maria, would give residents the opportunity to air their opinions.

“It’s always important to give the public the opportunity to speak to issues, particularly that are of great current concern or have been, past or present, of a controversial nature,” Farr said. “Certainly, I think this qualifies.”

Farr explained the county’s issues with the bureau’s decision are the same as those regarding the tribe’s more recent proposal to bring 1,400 acres of tribal land near Santa Ynez—known as Camp 4—into trust: loss of county land use control, fiscal impacts, and uncertainty about how the land might
be used.

 “We’ve learned that the tribe may state a purpose, but if they decide to change their mind, there really isn’t any recourse given to the BIA to hold them to that,” Farr said. “Unfortunately, there have been examples in other areas where that has occurred; the community thought they knew what was going to happen on the property, and the purpose changed.”

Chumash leaders have previously said they intend to build a cultural center and museum, a park, and a professional office center on the land. Tribal spokeswoman Nerissa Sugars said the tribe had no comment on the bureau’s recent decision or the upcoming public meeting.

The tribe originally applied to have the land, located near the Chumash Casino, brought into federal trust in 2000. The bureau approved the transfer in 2005, and county supervisors held an open session on the issue, intending to protest the decision. Instead of appealing, the county attempted to forge an agreement with tribal leaders to prohibit the land from being used for gaming, but discussions broke down.

Two grassroots citizen groups, Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO) and Preservation of Santa Ynez (POSY), filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior to block the transfer. The county attempted to lend its support, but the bureau said the deadline had passed. The groups submitted their final documents in 2010, but were told they didn’t have legal standing to sue and are still awaiting a response. A recent Supreme Court decision upholding the right of citizen groups to legally oppose fee-to-trust could affect the litigation, Farr said.

In a newsletter to members, POLO board president Kathy Cleary—who petitioned Farr to hold the public meeting—said she fears if the tribe is allowed to annex the 6.9 acres, it would set a precedent for bringing Camp 4 and other future fee-to-trust proposals into federal trust.

“In this recent decision, the BIA is, yet again, blatantly ignoring harm to non-Indian individuals and decisions by United States Supreme Court,” she said. “It continues to give itself the authority to review its own decisions and the authority to create the process to support its own decisions.”








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